Saturday, September 20, 2008

Biden-Pelosi: In Over Their Heads On Abortion Debate

"More Catholic Than the Pope"
Joe Biden's and Nancy Pelosi's ill-fated ventures into theological disputation.
by Joseph Bottum
09/29/2008, Volume 014, Issue 03

Do they think this is a debate they're actually going to win?

Do they imagine the Catholic theologians of America--from Avery Cardinal Dulles all the way to Sister Sara Butler--are suddenly going to whack their heads and say, "My God, we never thought of that"? What impulse makes Catholic politicians try to argue theology with their own church?

There it was, at the end of August, when Nancy Pelosi, the Catholic speaker of the House, went on Meet the Press to explain that abortion is not theologically wrong: "What I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months. .  .  . I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this."

And then, two weeks later, Joe Biden, the Catholic vice-presidential candidate, went back on Meet the Press to add: "There is a debate in our church. .  .  . Back in Summa Theologia, when Thomas Aquinas wrote Summa Theologia, he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith?"

With their typical patience, the theologians replied that theology has always taken its facts from the biological sciences when talking about biological issues--and science these days makes clearer how gestation works than it did in the fourth century. For that matter, Augustine explicitly condemned abortion at any stage, as did Thomas Aquinas, and besides, quickening (the fetal motion that usually occurs between 90 and 120 days in a pregnancy) is completely different from the Thomistic account of the development of the intellective soul around the 40th day, and Speaker Pelosi seems to have confused .  .  . while Senator Biden may not have fully grasped .  .  .

On and on it went, as stylized as a Kabuki performance--until, with his typical impatience, Denver's archbishop, Charles Chaput, summed up: "Meet the Press has become a national window on the flawed moral reasoning of some Catholic public servants." Fourteen bishops have now issued public statements on the Pelosi and Biden gaffes.

In part, what these politicians are doing is dredging up the half-remembered talking points of elections past--the sort of block of eroded verbiage that the Catholic John Kerry sometimes used during the 2004 presidential campaign, as when, for example, he said his position on abortion was in line with the liberalism of the (non-existent) Pope Pius XXIII and the changes wrought by "the Vatican II."

Along the way, however, Kerry established what seems to have become a new default position for Democratic Catholics--one of those spots to which the minds of politicians, like overstretched rubber-bands, always snap back. The default position used to be the one established by Mario Cuomo, in a famous talk he gave at Notre Dame in 1984, which claimed that Catholic officials may resist Church teaching by being personally opposed to abortion even though they publicly support it.

2 Comments:

Blogger Santiago Chiva, Granada said...

On the topic of abortion, even many people who defend the possibility of legal abortions, they say they are not pro-abortion, but they don’t want to punish women who are in this difficult situation. In Germany a curious thing has happened. Something that reflects that legal abortion affects adversely to the country. And also that the change is possible: you can promote a culture of life with the support of the citizens, when really there is a real wish of avoid abortions. Since the liberalization of abortion in this country, the number of abortions is officially four million. For that reason, among others, children are seen as an unintended effect of having sex. Many people thought it was necessary to promote greater social acceptance of children in an aging society. And civil society acted, without waiting for action by the State to promote births. They joined several media organizations in a campaign. Interestingly, after the campaign, the birth rate has risen in Germany. The video is exciting. Look here: http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=SztG8JpxvHY
Santiago Chiva (Granada, Spain)

4:20 PM  
Blogger Red S Tater said...

You make some very interesting points Santiago, please stop by anytime.
-red

4:42 PM  

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